Himalaya (with Michael Palin) (2004)

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Released 2-Dec-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Introduction-Pre-Trip Introduction By Michael Palin
Menu Animation & Audio
Additional Footage-Extended Scenes
Interviews-Cast-Post-Trip Interview With Michael Palin
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 354:16 (Case: 395)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John-Paul Davidson
Roger Mills

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Michael Palin
Case ?
RPI $59.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Michael Palin is a very funny man. He is one of my favourite comedians of all time and probably my favourite of the great Monty Python group, although there are certainly strong claims to that title from John Cleese and Eric Idle. Palin's humour is so down to earth and natural he can make me laugh with nothing more than a facial expression. In this series he proves that comedy can transcend language barriers in a great scene involving a group of small children high in the Himalayas and his shoes. But, this is not a comedy series, so why am I going on about comedy so much? Well, it is Palin's easy way with a smile and a joke and his genuine, relaxed and down-to-earth demeanour which makes this show such a treat. It also explains why he has now made 6 of these travel based documentary series for the BBC. All of them have been well worth watching and most of them (including this one) have been exceptional television. The other 5 are:

    Himalaya uses pretty much the same format as the previous series which can best be described as Michael Palin travels somewhere using local transport methods and introduces us to the local people, customs, food, wildlife and natural beauty. The wonderful thing about these shows is that they are a personal travelogue rather than trying to be a comprehensive documentary or travel guide. We meet numerous local characters and visit interesting and off the beaten track places which not everyone goes to. Some great examples of this in this series are a small theatre left over from the British Raj, a Prince in Pakistan who attends the bull races, a day with some Yak herders in Tibet and visiting an old Chinese doctor recommended to him by fellow Monty Python member, Terry Jones. I love the way that Michael doesn't just visit these people, he gets involved; helping to mix butter for the Yak herders, appearing onstage in the theatre or getting his teeth looked at by a very scary dentist in Pakistan. There are many more such treasures to be enjoyed in the main series and in the copious extra scenes.

    The show includes six episodes of approximately one hour each. They are:

  1. North by Northwest - The program begins in the North-West Frontier section of Pakistan. Michael goes up the Kyber Pass Railway, visits the local gun industry and dentists, interviews a local prince, attends the bull races and then sets off by bus to Chitral high in the mountains. He visits the local Kalash people who are not Moslems and attends an annual Polo Match high in the Xandoor Pass near the Hindu Kush.
  2. A Passage to India - Goes up to 14500ft by Helicopter to get his first taste of high altitude, then has to detour back to Lahore to actually cross into India after observing some truly bizarre border rituals. He visits a huge Sikh temple at Amritsar and then takes the Himalayan Queen railway to Shimla the old capital of British India. Here he visits a local theatre stuck in a time warp and then goes on to beautiful but war torn Kashmir. Here he stays on one of the famous houseboats and then visits Srinigar where the Dalai Lama now lives. He gets his astrology chart done by the Buddhist monks and then has the chance to interview the Dalai Lama.
  3. Annapurna to Everest - He now enters Nepal by air and hooks up with a British commander of the Gurkha regiment who is recruiting in the area. They trek to a remote village to hold a recruitment test but fall foul of the local Maoist Guerrillas. Next Michael treks up the mountains to Annapurna base camp with a sherpa and gets his first taste of high altitudes, which gives him some trouble. From there they move on to the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, where he receives the King's blessing. Tibet is the next stop but they first must cross the border into China via road. He visits the highest monastery in the world and then climbs to Everest Base Camp assisted by some Yak.
  4. The Roof of the World - This episode focuses on the people and terrain of Tibet, which is now part of China. He visits various Buddhist temples, the Dalai Lama's old palace (now a museum), a night club and some more temples. He visits a barren lake in the middle of nowhere which is greatly revered by the Tibetan People, who go on devotional walks around the lake. These take 18 days. He also spends time with traditional Yak herders living in tents and helps with various tasks such as milking and cooking. Watch out for the teletubby! He then attends a large horse fair/festival in Yushu and turns south to follow the Yangtze River.
  5. Leaping Tiger Naked Nagas - Michael travels down the Yangtze by boat through the famous Tiger Leaping gorge and arrives at the eastern-most point of his journey. He visits a local singing star, a doctor recommended by Terry Jones and attends a Chinese Classical Music concert. He travels through Yunnan province and then visits Nagaland which is on the border between India and Myanmah. This area is inhabited by ex-headhunters. Next, he crosses back into India and visits a coil mine and oil well. Heading deeper into Assam he visits tea gardens, working elephants and then heads down the Brahmaputra River stopping to visit a Hindu monastery of dancing monks. He also visits a national park to see the Rhinos.
  6. Bhutan to the Bay of Bengal - We head into the small mountainous country of Bhutan which strives for Gross National Happiness rather than profit. He meets poets and attends a religious festival which includes both Archery and a 5 storey high tapestry. After Bhutan, he crosses into Bangladesh which is a low lying country built out of silt washed down from the Himalayas. He chats with local business people and visits the capital Dacca. He then takes a steamer down the delta to Mongla and ends his journey at the Bay of Bengal after 6 months of travelling.

    If you enjoyed the previous Michael Palin travel series, then you will certainly enjoy this one. If you have not seen one before, give this one a try - it's one of the best yet.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is very good.

    The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was clear and sharp throughout except that some scenes were affected by light grain. The grain was strangely inconsistent, sometimes non-existent and then at other times quite noticeable, but never heavy. There was no evidence of low level noise. The shadow detail was very good and came in quite useful in scenes where they were filming the effect of altitude on Michael while he was trying to sleep.

    The colour was very good, showing the wonderful natural colours of the mountains and landscapes and the comparison to the brightly coloured prayer flags and local costumes.

    Artefacts were very minimal with only a very occasional speck and some mild aliasing such as on buildings & car grilles in Episode 3 and a palace and train grille in Episode 4.

    There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired. They were clear and easy to read but a little summarised from the spoken word.

    The layer changes do not affect the main program.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is very good, doing all that is required for a show of this type.

    These DVDs contain an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync. Considering the dialogue driven nature of a documentary this is the most critical audio ingredient.

    The music used is by David Hartley, Andre Jacquemin & Dave Howman and consists of the theme tune and some well written atmospheric music which adds to the feel of the show.

    The surround speakers added some atmosphere and music when the disc was played using Dolby Digital ProLogic II.

    The subwoofer added bass to the theme tune and other music, but this has more to do with my amp's bass management than it does the soundtrack itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    A large amount of extra material not included in the main show is included on the discs.


    The menu includes multiple stills, music and the ability to select scenes and subtitles. On disc one, the menu is preceded by a Pre-trip introductory interview with Michael Palin which I will cover as an extra.

Pre-Trip Introduction (3:32)

    Recorded in London before setting off in 2003, Michael discusses his pre-trip concerns and that he is now 60 years old. Nice addition.

Extended Scenes

    There are extra scenes included for each of the six episodes. The scenes are either deleted scenes and stories which did not make the cut, extended versions of scenes included in the main show or bloopers. Altogether there is over 2 hours of this extra material and nearly all of it is interesting, some very unlucky to miss the final cut. Each program's material can be either watched as individual scenes or by using a Play All function. It includes a voice-over style commentary obviously recorded later by Michael Palin, which can be very funny.

    Includes a strange tree, an extended interview with the Prince, visiting money changers, morning markets and truck painters in Peshawar, more about the Kalash people, local languages and an extended interview with one of the Polo Captains. Great stuff.

    Michael has lunch in a crashed aeroplane, meets Imran Khan, visits a brewery in non-drinking Pakistan, sees more of Lahore, meets a Pakistani film star, attends a floating market and sees some children dancing. Also includes more of the interview with the Dalai Lama and an outtake. More fascinating material.

    Includes more material with the Ghurkha commander, meeting an old retired British Ghurkha living in Nepal, more about how the climb to Annapurna affected him, more of Kathmandu, an extra bonus sacred site and an interview with some Dutch people cycling through the Himalayas! The interview with the ex-Ghurkha is great.

    Includes visiting more Tibetan sacred sites and shopping for coral.

    Includes travelling the first bend of the Yangtze, visiting shamen and a Chinese run Ethnic Park which highlights local cultures, a soccer match and a bicycle ride.

    Includes a visit to another monastery, an investigation of the Bhutanese fascination with phallic symbols, visiting a Bhutanese film star, chewing betel-nut and meeting a Bangladeshi businesswoman.

Post-Trip Interview (27:28)

    A great addition which is a post trip interview where Michael discusses how difficult it was physically and politically, tells some anecdotes about things which occurred off camera and tells us that it was his first journey in which he thought about quitting. He also recounts his favourite parts of the journey. Well worth watching.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This set has been released in both Region 2 and Region 4 in exactly the same format. It does not seem to be available in Region 1.


    A wonderful travel series by Michael Palin in the tradition of his 5 previous travel series. This time he spent six months travelling through the Himalayas.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good , perfectly suited to the material.

    The disc has a fantastic collection of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Monday, February 07, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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